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After Timor Charges, The Vatican Sanctions A Nobel Laureate

After Timor Charges, The Vatican Sanctions A Nobel Laureate.

The Vatican confirmed Thursday that Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo had been sanctioned due to claims that he had sexually molested minors in East Timor during the 1990s, bringing the decades-long Catholic Church sex abuse crisis to bear on the Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

The Acknowledgement

The Vatican’s acknowledgment came a day after a Dutch publication, De Groene Amsterdammer, disclosed the allegations against the esteemed Catholic bishop, mentioning two of Belo’s claimed victims and claiming there were others in East Timor, where the church exerts significant sway, who hadn’t come forward.

According to spokesman Matteo Bruni, the limits were put in place within a year of the Vatican office handling sex abuse cases receiving reports “concerning the bishop’s actions.” They included restrictions on Belo’s movements and the practice of his ministry, as well as the exclusion of any voluntary interaction with East Timor or children.

In a statement, Bruni claimed that Belo had publicly accepted the penalty in both instances when the punishments were “enhanced and reinforced” in November 2021.

However, the Vatican has not explained why St. John Paul II let Belo step down as the church leader in East Timor twenty years early in 2002 and be transferred to Mozambique, where he worked with kids.

The poor, predominantly Catholic nation of Southeast Asia was shocked to learn of Belo’s actions; after all, he had fought to free East Timor from Indonesian domination and was seen as a hero there.

Under anonymity, an official from the East Timor archdiocese told The Associated Press on Thursday, “We are here likewise in shock to hear this news.”

Requests for comment were not immediately answered by the Nobel Committee or the United Nations.

De Groene Amsterdammer reported that two alleged victims, named only Paulo and Roberto, claimed Belo had molested them as well as other youths. It said that its research had revealed that church and humanitarian workers and the East Timorese government were all aware of Belo’s abuse.

Roberto was quoted in the magazine as saying, “The bishop raped and sexually assaulted me that night.” He sent me out in the early hours of the day. It was still dark, which made me anxious. To go home, I had to wait. Additionally, he left me money. That was said to silence me. And to make sure I would return.

As East Timor fought to become independent from Indonesia, a former Dutch colony, Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in promoting a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict in their homeland.

Belo was commended by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for his bravery in standing up to the forces of Indonesia. The committee stated that he smuggled away two witnesses to a brutal massacre in 1991 so they could speak to the U.N. while attempting to convince the organization to set up a vote for East Timor. Geneva human rights commission.

Later, Ramos-Horta rose to the position of president of the once Portuguese province of East Timor. After leaving the United States on Thursday to speak to the U.N., when the General Assembly questioned the accusations against Belo, Ramos-Horta referred them to the Vatican.

He stated, “I prefer to wait for further action from the Holy See.

Belo, who was thought to reside in Portugal, didn’t answer the phone when Radio Renascença, the private radio station of the Portuguese church, called him.

Belo is a priest with the Salesians of Don Bosco, a Roman Catholic sect with a long history of sway in the Vatican. The news was received “with great regret and shock,” the Salesians’ Portuguese branch stated in a statement on Thursday.

The branch declared that Belo was not associated with the order since he assumed control in East Timor and separated itself from him. Belo is still a Salesian bishop, as evidenced by the initials “SDB” after his name in the Vatican yearbook.

The Salesian stated, “We have no knowledge that would enable us to comment on matters featured in the news.”

It claimed that Belo was taken in by the Portuguese Salesians at the request of their superiors after he departed East Timor in 2002 and because he was well-regarded. Still, it claimed he had not performed any pastoral work there.

It is unknown if or when any alleged victims ever reported their experiences to the local church, law enforcement, or Vatican officials.

On November 26, 2002, when Belo was 54 years old, St. John Paul II accepted his resignation as the apostolic administrator of Dili. Canon law permits bishops who are younger than the traditional retirement age of 75 to retire for health problems, or other “grave” causes that prevent them from continuing, according to the Vatican declaration at the time.

Belo explained to UCA News, a Catholic news organization, that he left due to stress and bad health in 2005. After then, Groene Amsterdammer claimed that Belo left for Mozambique to work as a priest and that he had no other ecclesiastical careers.

Sepe, who is currently retired, could not be reached.

By the time Belo stepped down as the head of the East Timorese church in 2002, the sex abuse scandal had just broken into the American public eye, and the Vatican had just started to tighten down on abusive priests by insisting that all cases of abuse be reported to them for review.

However, bishops were excluded from that demand. A church regulation mandating all sexual misbehavior against bishops to be disclosed internally and giving a framework to review the charges was only passed by Pope Francis in 2019, implying the new law prompted the Vatican to take action.

If Belo had engaged in sexual contact with 16- or 17-year-olds, the Vatican might have disregarded it in the early 2000s since, at the time, they believed that such behavior was sinful but consensual. The Vatican only raised the consent age to 18 in 2010.

Belo is not the only East Timor church leader accused of abuse. In the first case of its sort in the nation, a Dili court convicted defrocked American priest Richard Daschbach guilty of sexually abusing orphaned and vulnerable young girls. At the same time, they were in his care and sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

Dutch Magazine Reports

According to the Dutch publication, the inquiry showed that Belo also victimized youngsters in the 1980s before rising to the position of a bishop when he worked at a Salesians-run educational facility.

Paulo, now 42, claimed to have been abused by Belo in the bishop’s residence in Dili, the capital of East Timor. The magazine reported that he requested anonymity for his privacy and his family’s safety.

“I thought, ‘This is repulsive. The magazine quoted him as saying, “I won’t go there any longer.

Roberto, who also requested anonymity, claimed that he experienced abuse more frequently, beginning when he was around 14 and following a religious event in his community. Later, Roberto relocated to Dili, where the Dutch magazine claimed the alleged abuse persisted at the bishop’s home.